City hall was packed with trails supporters during Wednesday night’s city council meeting.
The Kootenay Columbia Trail Society (KCTS) had put out a call to the supporters when the city left the $19,000 it receives off a draft budget for 2013.
The huge group of at least 70 people were happy to hear support from council on the issue, as the funding being left off was attributed to council’s wish to get a better idea of the Columbia Avenue projects cost by way of leaving empty line items.
Isaac Saban, president of the KCTS, presented council with an in-depth report on the benefits the trails bring to Rossland and the greater area.
The KCTS manages 145 km of non-motorized trail in the Rossland area.
“That is the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what it takes to support those trails. The amount of effort that goes in behind it is enormous,” he said. “Those 145 km of trails are located 90 per cent on private land.”
The KCTS has 28 land access agreements, one which is with the government to operate on Crown land.
“So we’re dealing with 27 different organizations, from either individuals, who may own a small lot that has 100 metres of trail across it, but without that 100 metres, you don’t have the other 5 km of trail… all the way through to corporations like Teck Metals,” he said.
Saban noted the intricacies that the society takes on when dealing with a company like Teck.
“When we’re dealing with Teck, we’re dealing with two lawyers, their local lawyer and their corporate lawyer in Vancouver, we’re dealing with paralegal, their manager, we’re dealing with a manager of lands, we’re dealing with outside consultants who are offering environmental advice.”
Saban said in those 27 agreements, the society deals with 150 different people.
For landowners, there is not really any incentive to offer the land, rather they take on risk. The incentives are in the public image and the ability to offer the use for the public good. The KCTS offers an insurance liability policy in exchange for the risk that the landowner takes on.
“That policy requires that we maintain the trails, that’s where this funding really becomes key,” Saban said. “If we don’t maintain the trails every single year, that insurance is null and void. If the insurance is null and void we lose the land access agreements. If we lose the land access agreements, you will likely never see a trails network in this area again.”
It took the KCTS five years to get the first agreement. Saban said that other areas look at the KCTS as a role model for the “ultimate, sustainable, highly valuable, network and how to operate trails.”
Saban, noted that, as a professional engineer, he would charge $19,000 for 150 hours of his time, which is roughly what he volunteers to the KCTS in a year.
“I’m one of seven directors,” he said. “We’re all equally involved, we’re all equally networked within the communities.”
He estimated all together the KCTS volunteers put in 3,500 hours a year.
Were they to build the network from scratch, he estimate the cost at $2.25 million.
They also estimated 120,000 users on the trails per year.
Coun. Kathy Moore noted that Saban’s presentation really highlighted the value that the organization brings to Rossland as a resort municipality.
Saban also noted that he hoped the city would make the funding consistent, so as to avoid the society’s need to create a report such as the one from that night every year. He said it took the directors about 120 hours to put it together.
Coun. Jill Spearn said the KCTS is a “no-brainer.”
“I think Rossland has moved in many ways, from users of parks and arenas, although those are still used by our community, to a community of using the trail system,” Spearn said. “You know I’m a strong supporter of KCTS.”
Coun. Kathy Wallace noted that on top of the $19,000, Rossland also pays $11,000 into the KCTS through the regional district.
“I have been a supporter and I will continue to be a supporter,” Wallace said, adding that she uses the trails herself. “I think there was a little bit of misunderstanding that reached out to the community, because that budget that had been presented had empty line items in it. It was really a way for council to understand the potential offsetting of the Columbia Ave project. There were no decisions made at that point in time.”
Wallace said that the trails are a part of the community.
Mayor Greg Granstrom said that having so many show up is a visual reminder to council of the importance of the trails in the community.
“Council is, I believe, very aware of the value of the trails to the city, I don’t think there is any question of that in our minds,” Granstrom said.
For more on the Kootenay Columbia Trail Society, click here.